Coming of age

Wright State professor Corey Seemiller authors new book on Generation Z with co-researcher Meghan Grace

Latest book by Corey Seemiller, associate professor of leadership studies in education and organizations, takes a deep look at the characteristics of Generation Z. (Photo by Erin Pence)

When we weren’t looking, Generation Z grew up.

Overshadowed by the Millennials, members of the younger Generation Z quietly made their way through the pipeline to the point where they now represent Americans from the third grade through college and into graduate school or taking their place in the workforce. They are poised to make their mark on society and the world.

Corey Seemiller, associate professor of leadership studies in education and organizations at Wright State University, and Meghan Grace, a graduate student at Vanderbilt University, have thrown the spotlight on this group of Americans with their new book “Generation Z: A Century in the Making.”

“Generation Z can be characterized as an open-minded, caring and diverse generation grounded in a sense of integrity and tenacity,” Seemiller and Grace write. “These young people value financial security, family and relationships, meaningful work, and happiness, and are motivated through relationships, engaging with their passions, and achievement.”

It is the third book on Generation Z that Seemiller and Grace have written. Their first — “Generation Z Goes to College” — was largely for a higher education audience as Generation Z was just coming to college. The second — “Generation Z Leads” — is a handbook for designing leadership and service learning for Generation Z students.

Seemiller’s TEDxDayton talk in 2017 on Generation Z making a difference has more than 100,000 views. Both Seemiller and Grace have become leading experts on Generation Z.

Their latest book, released in November, is more sweeping and drills much deeper into the characteristics of Generation Z. It has entire chapters devoted to their views on physical health, mental health, spirituality and religion, romance, risky behaviors, societal concerns, career aspirations and entertainment.

“We are constantly told that we are greedy, selfish, lazy, and generally made out to be horrible and demonized, despite being one of the best generations based on statistics like college attendance, drug use, and teen pregnancy.” – Member of Generation Z

There are seven living generations — the GI Generation of the early 1900s, the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z and Generation Alpha. Characteristics of each generation are discussed in the book.

“Generations do not come out of nowhere; they are shaped by the predecessors before them — their decisions, the cultural context, the politics, the economics, their parents,” said Seemiller.

Members of Generation Z were born from 1995 through 2010.

“They are a very passionate, value-oriented generation, like the Millennials,” said Seemiller. “You are going to see them as making a huge mark in society in terms of spending power.”

Seemiller says what differentiates members of Gen Z from other generations is that many of them want to skirt convention and work for themselves instead of existing companies.

“They’re saying, ‘I’m going to take a different path. I’m going to do it my way,’” she said.

More than 2,000 students from 50 colleges and universities in 37 states were surveyed for their most recent study that is discussed in the book. It was based on answers from members of Gen Z to seven open-ended questions such as: What makes learning enjoyable for you? What gets you excited about getting up every day?

“I don’t want a huge house, a super fancy car, or a lot of stuff. I think it would be great to have completely average things without having to worry about how I’m going to afford the most basic necessities.” — Member of Generation Z

Based on their study and the work of many other researchers, Seemiller and Grace describe members of Gen Z as:

  • Having great entrepreneurial and inventive spirit. Half want to start their own businesses; 40 percent want to invent something that changes the world.
  • Seeing themselves as “doers” rather than leaders.
  • Preferring to learn alone rather than with others.
  • Enjoying texting but actually preferring in-person communication.
  • Believing making a difference for others is more important than big salaries.

“The wonderful thing about this generation is we are both dreamers and doers … More than just seeing it through, we work to achieve it.” — Member of Generation Z

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